In Part 1 of this article, we revealed that modern connectivity technologies have the potential to unlock and revolutionize BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) drone applications across the board, reducing SWaP (size, weight, and power) footprints and maximizing your chance for regulatory approval. Part 2 goes into further detail on Elsight’s Halo solution, outlining why it is the perfect solution to many BVLOS challenges. BVLOS SWaP – Take advantage of cloud computing.
While the continuing adoption of BVLOS technologies is the key to unlocking the full economic potential of commercial drone applications, for many drone developers it may feel like it raises more questions than it answers! As we saw in part 1, the main challenges are thus:
- BVLOS means further distances and longer flight times – how can I minimize my drone’s SWaP expenditure so that it can fly as far and for as long as possible?
- How can I trust my connectivity solution to support the offloading of processing functions to the cloud?
- Do I have to figure this out all by myself? Will partnering with a specialist ease the burden of ensuring that my drone platform can handle all this and still remain certifiable?
Cloud computing and minimizing your onboard design
A variety of embedded systems are available that can provide state-of-the-art onboard artificial intelligence, machine vision, and deep learning for any robotics application you can think of. However, sophisticated algorithms and intensive processing are extremely power-hungry, and such systems may not be an option for smaller drones with a low SWaP budget.
Another option is to allow someone else’s computers to do the work for you. If you have the bandwidth and the latency, a lot of tasks commonly undertaken by onboard components can be offloaded to the cloud via the drone’s datalink. These tasks can include image and sensor data processing for essential functions such as autonomous navigation, detect-and-avoid, and target identification.
In today’s world, where cloud computing is highly accessible, it sounds insane to put servers’ room in the office environment. So why it sounds reasonable to put it on a drone with a very challenging SWaP budget? The cloud infrastructure, combined with updated communication methods, will play an essential role in the shift towards greater autonomous operations, providing drones with the computing power they need at a distance from where they flying.
Designing your drone to take advantage of this data offloading and analysis paradigm will minimize the number of required components onboard the aircraft, which in return will reduce not only the power drain but also the overall cost and complexity of the design.
Connectivity – the missing key
To date, this offloading approach has been relatively uncommon. This is partially due to the relative infancy of scaled-up commercial drone operations, the ever-changing industry, and its methodologies. Crucially, another factor has been the availability of reliable drone connectivity solutions on the market.
A number of different communications protocols can be used for drone data links. For BVLOS drones, the most common methods are likely to be cellular, and with the maturation of 5G for drone applications still, some years away, this largely means 3G and 4G.
A datalink solution that relies on a single link will not be sufficient. Drones operating BVLOS are likely to pass through a range of different communications environments, with black spots where particular providers and protocols cannot be accessed. This is obviously going to result in unreliable communications, safety issues and in turn, a firm “no” from the regulators.
Elsight’s Halo connectivity solution provides BVLOS drones with the answer to this dilemma. The multi-network solution aggregates multiple IP links from all available protocols. It features a unique 6th Sense bonding capability that constantly utilizes and monitors all available links while in case of compromised channel arising from communications “dead zones”, it will automatically rerouting to the most suitable channel for your application’s particular needs.
With state-of-the-art proprietary bonding algorithms and built-in over-the-air encryption, Halo provides a force multiplier for safe, trustworthy BVLOS drone communication and control. In addition to enhancing your drone platform’s chances of certification, it will also allow you to drive down development costs by taking advantage of cloud computing paradigms.
Elsight – your partner from concept to certified commercial operations
As more and more systems and component manufacturers enter the drone market, identifying the right solutions and the right partners to minimise your time to market becomes more and more vital. While you can figure everything out yourself, the right partner can help you plan your on- and off-board components and elements of your methodology, shaving off development times and resource expenditure and allowing you to focus more resources on your core competencies.
Just as Halo is more than a datalink, Elsight is more than an off-the-shelf component provider. With deep insights and experience in drone communications and systems design and extensive involvement in the emerging BVLOS markets, we can help you every step of the way.
BVLOS is key to scaling up to successful commercial drone operations. Developing a certified platform is crucial, and Halo and Elsight can help you achieve not only this but also extended distances and airtimes, putting you ahead of the competition and maximising your efficiency and profitability. BVLOS SWaP – Take advantage of cloud computing.
Written by Yoav Amitai